This is it! The first night of the NHL playoffs. All 16 teams still think they are going to be the Stanley Cup Champs. Here are a few notes from around the league before we get started on the three game slate.
Joe Thornton, who suffered a knee injury and subsequent surgery on January 23, is hoping to return at some point in the first round. The Sharks could really use him in the post-season…Jay Beagle and Travis Boyd are doubtful for Washington Thursday…The Devils’ coach John Hynes will announce his starting goalie on Thursday and Keith Kinkaid should get the nod over Cory Schneider as he outplayed him down the stretch…Steven Stamkos will play on Thursday after missing the last three games of the regular season with a lower body injury. He will center Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller…Rick Nash is likely to return to the Bruins lineup for Game 1 with Ryan Donato likely to be the odd-man out of the lineup.
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PITTSBURGH 7 PHILADELPHIA 0
The battle of Pennsylvania was over pretty early as the Penguins scored three times in the first and two in each of the last two periods while completely shutting down the Flyers.
Jake Guentzel was the offensive leader for the Penguins as he had a goal and three assists. You have to be happy if you picked him in your playoff pool.
Bryan Rust became the first player to score in the post-season and it would be the game-winner as he found the back of the net only 2:38 into the first period. Carl Hagelin made it 2-0 and then set up Evgeni Malkin as the Penguins took a 3-0 lead into the dressing room.
Murray made 24 saves for the shutout. He must be a playoff goalie as he currently has a 206:26 shutout streak going in the playoffs dating back to last season. He had a good record in the regular season at 27-16-3 but his peripherals were mediocre with a 2.92 GAA and a .907 save percentage. He probably cost more than a few poolies a chance to win their leagues.
Dumoulin had a pair of assists for the winners. Phil Kessel, likely a high draft choice in so many pools, was held pointless.
It was a horrible night all-round for the Flyers and it started in goal as Brian Elliott got the start for only the third time since February 11 when he suffered a lower body injury. While he won the Flyers last two games of the regular season, he did not have it Wednesday as he gave up five goals on 19 shots before getting the hook at the 9:01 mark of the second period. Petr Mrazek played the rest of the way, giving up two goals to Crosby as the Penguins fired 14 shots his way. Look for the Flyers to go back to Elliott for the Game 2 start.
Derick Brassard returned to action after missing the last games with a lower body injury and picked up an assist.
Despite the loss, don’t count out the Flyers. It is only one game and it’s a lot better to lose like that rather than a double-overtime loss. Game 2 is Friday in Pittsburgh.
WINNIPEG 3 MINNESOTA 2
The Winnipeg Jets made a big trade and a small trade at the deadline as they picked up Paul Stastny from the Blues in the big deal and defenseman Joe Morrow from Montreal to give them some depth on the blueline.
Well, it was Morrow who became the star of Game 1 as he scored the game-winner as the Winnipeg Jets won their first ever playoff game including their time as the Atlanta Thrashers by getting past the Minnesota Wild 3-2. Morrow
It was a hard-fought affair as the Wild took a 2-1 lead 3:58 into the third period as Matt Cullen and Zach Parise scored early in the third to counter the second period goal by the Jets Mark Scheifele.
Mathieu Perreault suffered an upper body injury in the second period and did not return.
Jared Spurgeon 20:19 in his return to action as he last played on March 13 after suffering a hamstring injury.
There were only three minors called in the game as the Wild could not score on their only attempt while the Jets were 1-2 as Scheifele’s first period goal was with the man-advantage.
Game 2 is Friday in Winnipeg.
VEGAS 1 LOS ANGELES 0
The first ever playoff game in Las Vegas was a hard-hitting one in front of a wild Vegas crowd as the Golden Knights joined the Jets in winning their first ever playoff game as they shut out the Los Angeles Kings 1-0.
Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar in the Golden Knights cage as he stopped all 30 shots the Kings threw at him to record his 11th career playoff shutout. It seems strange that both Murray and Fleury picked up shutouts on the same night.
There were 127 hits in the game with William Carrier leading the way with 10 in only 8:49 of action. He was injured when he took a hit from Drew Doughty in the third. Don’t be surprised if Doughty is suspended by the NHL for a game as it looked to be a hit to the head.
As a comparison there was only 66 hits in the Pittsburgh game and 70 hits in the Jets contest.